I saved £23k deposit to buy first-home by taking part in medical trials and working two jobs


PRACTICE nurse Lauren Doran and her husband Stephen took part in clinical trials to help them save the £23,000 deposit they needed for their first home. 

The young couple bought their two-bed coach-house in Oxford in 2018 for £230,000, when Lauren was just 23 and Stephen was aged 28. 

They used a 10 per cent deposit worth £23,000 which they saved over four years.

To boost their savings, the pair signed up to research clinics in Oxford where they would take part in drug trials for cash. 

Of course, it wasn’t without its risks but as they were both healthy and fully understood the possible side effects, they decided to press ahead. 

They each earned £4,500 for a two week clinical trial where they were treated for typhoid, while Lauren was paid another £3,000 for a drug to treat malaria.

At the same time Lauren was training to be a nurse, she worked weekends and university holidays at Marks & Spencers to boost her savings by £500 a month. 

Living with Stephen’s family for three years to help them to cut back costs, and they restricted themselves to going out once a fortnight – and budgeted £50 each – to save cash.

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At the same time, Lauren and Stephen, now 25 and 30, were saving to pay for their wedding shortly after they bought a new house – all in they’d managed to get together £35,000. 

We spoke to Lauren before the coronavirus lockdown for the My First Home series.

The couple have now put their home on the market but they take us through what it took for them to get on the property ladder. 

We live in Oxford in a coach house so it’s just one floor but there are four garages underneath us – three belong to other properties on the development and one is ours. 

The development is around 10 years old, so we’re not the first to live in the house. 

It’s got two bedrooms, a double and a single which is really useful to keep storage. 

Our kitchen and living room is at one end with the bathroom all the way down the other end of the corridor. 

A year after we moved in, we actually converted our garage into a second living room and put in a patio door that opens onto the garden. 

There are stairs that go down from the house to the garage and we put in an under-stairs cupboard there too. You won’t believe how much more space it has given us. 

We didn’t need to get planning permission to convert it – we’d only need it if we changed the outside – so the garage door is still there but it is plastered up from the inside. 

The idea was always to do some work to the house once we’d bought it. 

We sort of did bits as we went along rather than save up and do it all at once, so as soon as we’d save the money we plastered things, painted it, got new carpet in some rooms and laminate flooring in others. 

Then we refitted the kitchen. We sort of picked a room to do at a time. 

We bought our house in 2018 for £230,000 with a 10 per cent deposit at £23,000. 

All of the solicitors fees and everything cost probably another £5,000 on top of that. 

Our mortgage was for £207,000, which we took out over 25 years. It was a five-year fixed deal.

It took us five years years to save £35,000 – four years for the house and a year for the wedding.  

Actually, we were saving for our wedding at the same time – we got married a few months after buying our house. 

We both already had Help to Buy Isas but because you’re limited to saving a maximum of £200 a month we had other  accounts too. 

I moved into Stephen’s parents house in Oxford six months after we started going out in December 2012.

He was actually in his final year at university in Cambridge at the time but I was at Oxford Brookes university so it meant I could pay cheap rent, while we saved to buy somewhere. We were there for three years. 

I’m a practice nurse so I received a bursary to help me cover my living costs but I worked part-time on weekends and uni holidays at Marks & Spencers too to increase my income. 

This meant I could put the £500 a month I earned from the retail job straight into savings. 

To get some extra cash, I also took part in a couple of clinical trials. Stephen and myself signed up to a research group. 

We’d done our homework and I knew for the most part that it would be safe – of course there is a risk involved which you need to think about if you’re considering doing it to. 

But being a nurse, I knew that it was in a controlled environment and I felt comfortable with it. 

Both of us were paid £4,500 to trial a typhoid treatment. This involved us drinking contaminated water and then going for a blood test every day while they monitor and treat you. 

I also took part in a malaria one too, which involved having a few blood transfusions over two weeks. For this one, I was paid £3,000. 

You have to be around for a couple of weeks if you’re going to take part in the trials as you need to be close by for regular check ups and in case you feel ill then you can be treated quickly. 

I could only ever do them on university holidays and it meant I couldn’t work at M&S or go away but I didn’t find it too bad as I was getting paid to do it. 

It’s not something that I would recommend to everyone but if you are healthy it’s worth looking into. 

While we saved, I became more conscious of what we were spending our money on and switched to cheaper alternatives. 

We restricted ourselves to going out once a fortnight and budgeted ourselves £50 each. We also took part in a pub quiz every two weeks with our friends, which only costs us £1 to enter. 

By the time we came to buy, I had £4,000 in my Help to Buy Isa and Stephen had £2,800 so between us we got £3,330 from the government top-up. 

On top of that, we saved another £10,000 for our wedding, and my dad gifted us £3,000 for it.

We got a bit caught out with the Help to Buy Isa bonus as we thought we’d get it as a lump sum. 

We’d figured that this would increase our deposit and therefore make our mortgage smaller. 

What actually happens is that you get it on the day that you complete so the bonus went towards covering our legal fees. 

It was annoying at first but then we realised that it meant we could save some cash back and use it to buy furniture

I swear I had no idea how expensive furniture is until we had to buy it all for the house. 

We had the £500 leftover from our savings that we didn’t need for fees thanks to the Help to Buy bonus so we put it towards buying stuff for the house. 

We already had our bed and bedroom furniture from when we were living at Stephen’s mum’s place. 

But we bought some great second hand bargains from Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. 

For example, a brand new sofa would have costs us around £500 but we got one on Marketplace for £200. 

We got a solid wood dining table and chairs set from Marketplace for £100 too. 

All in, we spent about £2,500 on furnishing our home so that left us with £2,500 for the wedding fund. 

Initially we’d hoped to live here for around five years but actually since the coronavirus lockdown we’ve decided to put the house on the market. 

Now we’re looking for somewhere with more space and room for our family to grow. 

We actually put it on the market before the Chancellor announced the stamp duty relief but it has urged us to try and speed up the process.


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